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9 Ways Motherhood Can Break Your Spirit (& tips to help you heal)


Postpartum depression and anxiety are getting more attention now than ever before. That's the good news. The not-as-good news is that we still do not understand exactly why some women experience symptoms and others do not. Sometimes, in the midst of insufficient knowledge, the best we can do is fortify our resilience and deepen our understanding of our own experiences, so we can learn and adapt in healthy ways.

Therefore, consider the following interpretations of how having a baby can pierce the soul and spirit of an unsuspecting new mother and what you can do to help yourself feel better.

1) This isn't what you expected

Expectations are high during pregnancy and remember we live during a time when society and friends and family still expect this to the best time of our lives. Everyone has fantasies about how they envision life with a new baby and no matter how many people tell us to prepare to be tired and overwhelmed, we still cling to the hope that everything will be as blissful and it is portrayed in the media. Alas, we are set up for disappointment and feelings of failure.

Tip: Reverse the expectation. Let it go. That's right. Drop it like a hot coal and stop burning yourself. Stay present. Be kind to yourself. And remember, if you are feeling weak and discouraged, it will not always feel this way.

2) You are exhausted

Of course you are. That alone can strip down your resources and defenseless leaving you feeling unable to rally your best self, let alone, just get through the day! When you sleep again (and you will), you will feel less vulnerable and exposed.

Tip: You've probably heard this over and over, but it bears repeating. Sleep when you are able to sleep. If you cannot sleep, rest when you can. Put your body in position to replenish by cutting down on extraneous stimulation. Focus on self-care, especially the physical aspect, eating well, getting sunshine, walking, breathing.

3) You miss you partner

Yes. Days and nights run into each other and time seems to lose meaning. Schedules collide and you might find that resentments build as one of you might be going to work and one of you might be home with your baby. Whatever the situation at home is for you, emotions are running rampant.

Tip: Pay attention to your marriage. The postpartum period is hard on a marriage. At best, it is distracting. At the worst, it is detrimental. Make time for each other, even if it is five minutes here and there. This adds up. Check in with your partner. It's essential.

4) You miss your old self

Of course you do. This is one of the most difficult challenges for women who feel disheartened during this fragile time. Longing for previous, worry-free days where spontaneity and carefree enjoyment was plentiful feels utterly incompatible with how your life feels right now. This paradox reinforces feelings of sadness and loss.

Tip: Change is not easy for most people. Add to that, sleep deprivation, hormonal upheavals, crying infants, and the daily demands of new parenthood, it can make anyone wonder why they ever thought this was a good idea. But with change, comes accommodation, adaptation, and the ability to grow with each new challenge. Viewing this as a time in transition will help.Try to stay focused on the moment or the task at hand. Anxiety will rise when you feel guilty about the past or worry about the future. Stay where you are.

5) You don't recognize yourself as a mother

This is all new. No one knows more about this than you do. Trust your instincts. Somehow, it all falls into place. It really does.

Tip: Stay off the Internet. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. If you feel you have old, unresolved issues that continue to interfere with your ability to connect to this new role of yours, reach out to a professional and find the time to work on issues that may be distracting you from getting any pleasure out of this personal journey you are on.

6) You find yourself surrounded by unfamiliar negativity

Many postpartum women report this is now how they usually are; that they barely recognize themselves; that they are usually happy and positive and suddenly, they feel irritable, angry and overly critical of themselves and others close to them.

Tip: If you are worried about the way you are feeling, check this out with a therapist you trust, or let your medical provider know. Rest assured that it is common for negative feelings to surface when sleep is at a premium and support feels minimal. This is hard. Try to find a safe outlet for feelings of negativity (exercise, calling a friend, relaxation, yoga, breathing, for example). Above all, try not to be hard on yourself for this and instead seize the opportunity to learn new ways to express yourself. Self-compassion will take you further in the direction you want to go than creating or focusing on your flaws. It is easy to misperceive and misinterpret things right now. Be kind to yourself.

7) You spend way too much time worrying about how you are feeling.

Believe it or not, even with a new baby in the picture, this can be an extremely self-absorbing time. How am I feeling? Am I doing this the right way? Will s/he be okay? What if I don't do this right? How do I know if....? And so forth. The worries can feel endless. This is hard on the spirit and challenges every ounce of our psychic reserve to resist the negative inner critic and skeptic and surrender to our best intuition. It is not easy to feel confident while you are doubting yourself at the same time, but it is possible for both to co-exist.

Tip: Practice positive affirmations. Remember, you do not have to believe what you are saying yet, but saying it out loud will alert your brain and sometimes we can trick our brain into helping us feel the way we hope we can feel. For example: I am doing the best I can. Everything is going to be fine. I am a good mother.

8) You worry that you will always feel this way.

You will not always feel this way. Remind yourself that. And then, remind yourself again.

Tip: Seek balance in your life to renew your spirit. Spend time in nature. Too cliche? It can help distract your mind and there is all kinds of new evidence that there is replenishing energy outside, in the sun, surrounded by pathways and trees and all the things that can potentially offset the current and transient overload.

9) You believe no one understands what you are going through

You are not alone. It may feel that way sometimes, but you are not. Suffering is very subjective and very real. Even if you don't think you "should be" suffering, if you are, it is no one's business to judge that. Find someone you trust and let yourself be vulnerable on behalf of your broken spirit. There is healing power available to you there.

Tip: Reach out to others, even if it is hard. Isolation is not your friend right now. Let your partner know how you are feeling. Let your healthcare provider know how you are feeling. Call a friend. Take the risk and let someone in. It feels better.

The Postpartum Stress Center


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